GRAND RAPIDS — After more than three years on the drawing board, construction of the Circle at Aquinas is expected to get started this fall after planning commissioners approved the project recently.
The $7 million, 14,000-square-foot live-performance theater will take about 15 months to build and offer 419 permanent seats for productions by Aquinas College and Circle Theatre. The two-story, brick, wood and glass building will go up on the southeast end of the 107-acre campus, just east of Albertus Hall and north of Robinson Road.
Architect Dave Clark, of Fishbeck, Thompson Carr & Huber, said the theater will rise upward by 30 feet across a 10-foot slope of terrain. A portion of the structure will be built into the ground, which will allow the lobby to be accessed from both levels.
Besides the auditorium and lobby, the theater will have several rehearsal halls that will double as classrooms. Storage and set-construction space, along with parking for 256 cars, also will be available. The addition of temporary seats can increase theater capacity to 473 for sold-out performances.
Tom Summers, Aquinas facilities director, told the Business Journal that the theater will revive the college’s performing arts program and provide a positive impact for the school’s Master in Arts Management curriculum. He said the professional members of Circle Theatre will work with Aquinas students on their productions, and the students will work on the community theater’s summer offerings in the building.
Aquinas will use the building from September through April, while Circle Theatre will move its summer performances from John Ball Park to the theater in 2003. The college will own the building, while the community theater will lease space in it. Both will share the operating and maintenance costs, and both are raising funds for the construction.
Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber designed and engineered the building. Erhardt Construction will be the project’s general contractor.